Depression influences all aspects of day by day life, including sex. It controls sex drive, yet sex can help you boost your mood and is significant for relationships. Furthermore, some depression medications can curb your libido. 

And, breaking this continuous cycle can be a daunting task. 

How to escape this funk? Well, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology. But, there are some tried-and-true ways to effectively treat depression without destroying your sex life.

depression and sex life

What is actually very important, experts say, is to not stop depression treatment out of fear that your relationships and sex life will suffer. 

Despite the social stigma, depression is a very common illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 20 Americans over the age of 12 has some form of depression. While the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports a higher prevalence in women, the fact is that depression can develop in anyone, and at any age. The types of depression include:

  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Psychotic depression
  • Major depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Postpartum depression 
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Depression coupled with anxiety disorders

Connection Between Low Sex Drive And Depression

Sexual desire, or “libido,” is an essential part of most romantic relationships. When sexual desire declines or disappears completely, it can impact your quality of life and your relationship with your partner. 

Both women and men experience low libido, but women often don’t seek treatment. It is not unusual for a woman to be embarrassed to admit that she wants to improve her libido. Many women also assume that there are no treatments available.

But low sexual desire can be a sign of a health condition. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) —now known as ‘female sexual interest/arousal disorder’ — may be diagnosed if you have little or no desire for sexual activities. Low libido can also be a symptom of a mental health problem, such as depression.

Depression in Women

According to the NIMH, a higher rate of depression in women is related to hormonal changes. This is why a woman’s risk becomes more prone to depression:

  • before and during menstruation
  • after childbirth
  • when juggling work, home, and family life
  • during perimenopause and menopause

Women are the most likely to experience persistent “bluesy” feelings that can make them feel less confident and less worthy. These feelings can drastically change the overall sex life.

As women age, physical factors can make sex less enjoyable. Changes in the vaginal wall can make sex unpleasant.

Depression in Men

Anxiety, low self-esteem, and guilt are common causes of erectile dysfunction. These are all some common symptoms of depression, but such problems can also occur naturally with stress and age. 

The NIMH explains that men are also more likely to lose interest in activities during the depression. This could also mean that men might not find sex as enjoyable.

In men, antidepressants are directly related to impotence. Delayed orgasm or premature ejaculation may occur, too.

In both men and women, having trouble with sexual health can worsen feelings of worthlessness and other depression symptoms. This, in turn, can cause a vicious cycle of both worsening depression and sexual dysfunction.

Depression May Worsen Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder Symptoms

A study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that women who had depression and had HSDD were not really happy in their relationships. They also had sex with their partners less frequently. Also, they had greater difficulty forming and maintaining relationships. Additionally, one-third of premenopausal women with HSDD also experienced depression.

Depression and low libido can have many contributing factors, along with a range of symptoms. Having one condition does not mean you have the other, but it is quite possible to have both at the same time.

Laurie Watson, an AASECT certified sex therapist, and licensed couples counselor for over two decades talks about how depression affects sex and how to deal with it.

Some Of The Most Common Relationship Problems That Depression Can Cause 

Absence of Pleasure

People who have depression don’t find joy in things they used to, including engaging in a sexual relationship that they may have really enjoyed in the past. 

Increased Emotional Sensitivity

Things turn out badly in a sexual relationship from time to time, and people who have depression symptoms may confuse these temporary changes because of their own insufficiencies which often drives them to maintain a strategic distance from sex further. 

Trouble With Bonding

People living with depression regularly battle to feel deserving of love and affection. Moreover, their accomplices can feel disappointed that they can’t get through with their endeavors to love nor their invitations into the enlivening sexual relationship.

Low Energy

Fatigue can be a major symptom that may lead to avoiding sex. Depression may bring about excessively little or a lot of sleep, and even a lot of sleep does not restore vitality to the individual. Desire is frequently undermined by tiredness and sexual functioning can also decrease.

Laurie Watson recommends some tips to follow:

If you live with depression, here are some steps you can take to improve your sex life:

Consider a medication change

Ironically, the medication that is most often prescribed to alleviate depression is a class of drugs that often severely impact sex. For both genders, these drugs, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can reduce sex drive.

For men, an SSRI may also impact their erections. No one should go off medication without a doctor’s supervision, if you are on an SSRI and it is affecting your sex life, you may want to consult a psychiatrist to see if other drugs are possible. 

Perhaps speak to your psychiatrist or treating physician about the addition of buspirone which studies show may relieve some sexual side effects in 58% of people on SSRIs1.

Work On The Depression

To help understand and heal the roots of your depression, it may be helpful to work with a psychotherapist. Doing psychological work can help stabilize your mood and may even help you get off medication.

Basically, therapy organizes the complex feelings of depression, allowing a person to mentally understand there are concrete action steps that will help. The psychotherapist’s empathy and understanding are internalized as comfort, which lays a new foundation for mood stability. 

And the steadfast relational experience in therapy helps a person form more secure attachments in the rest of their relationships.

Visit a Sex Therapist With Your Partner

Going to sex therapy with your partner may alleviate misunderstandings about the sexual process and increase a person’s confidence in their technique. 

Sex therapists know sex is a physical process that enhances a person’s attachment to their partner and can suggest ways to increase sexual intimacy in a relationship. 

Most often, sex therapists help couples resolve the power struggle between them that is played out in the sexual realm. This resolution increases security in the partnership eliminating a frequent contributing source of depression.


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